Reverse osmosis: Mechanical pressure is applied to an impure solution to force pure water through a semi-permeable membrane. Reverse osmosis is theoretically the most thorough method of large scale water purification available, although perfect semi-permeable membranes are difficult to create. Unless membranes are well-maintained, algae and other life forms can colonize the membranes.
Household reverse-osmosis units use a lot of water because they have low back pressure. As a result, they recover only 5 to 15% of the water entering the system. The remainder is discharged as waste water. Because waste water carries with it the rejected contaminants, methods to recover this water are not practical for household systems. Wastewater is typically connected to the house drains and will add to the load on the household septic system. A reverse-osmosis unit delivering 19 L of treated water per day may discharge between 75–340 L of waste water daily. This has a disastrous consequence for mega cities like Delhi where large-scale use of household R.O. devices has increased the total water demand of the already water parched National Capital Territory of India.
The EPA states that there are four main types of contaminants to be found in water. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), a federal law that protects public drinking water supplies, defines "contaminant" as anything other than water molecules. We can reasonably expect most drinking water to contain some level of contaminant, especially since minerals such as calcium and magnesium fall into that category. The question is, which of these contaminants are harmful and how much of it is entering my system?
The membranes used for reverse osmosis have a dense layer in the polymer matrix—either the skin of an asymmetric membrane or an interfacially polymerized layer within a thin-film-composite membrane—where the separation occurs. In most cases, the membrane is designed to allow only water to pass through this dense layer while preventing the passage of solutes (such as salt ions). This process requires that a high pressure be exerted on the high-concentration side of the membrane, usually 2–17 bar (30–250 psi) for fresh and brackish water, and 40–82 bar (600–1200 psi) for seawater, which has around 27 bar (390 psi) natural osmotic pressure that must be overcome. This process is best known for its use in desalination (removing the salt and other minerals from sea water to produce fresh water), but since the early 1970s, it has also been used to purify fresh water for medical, industrial and domestic applications.
In recent years, energy consumption has dropped to around 3 kWh/m3, with the development of more efficient energy recovery devices and improved membrane materials. According to the International Desalination Association, for 2011, reverse osmosis was used in 66% of installed desalination capacity (0.0445 of 0.0674 km³/day), and nearly all new plants. Other plants mainly use thermal distillation methods: multiple-effect distillation and multi-stage flash.
Photo by purolipanFor flexibility, a good multi-tool is a camper’s best friend, and there are hundreds of models on the market. When comparing the need for different functions and the tool’s weight, it becomes apparent that simpler is better. Look for a multi-tool that has a regular and serrated blade, pliers with a wire cutter, carbide knife sharpener, bottle and can opener, and a lanyard loop. Pay close attention to the materials and quality; look for titanium handles, 154CM steel blades, and 420 stainless steel construction. If you plan on carrying a small hatchet for cutting firewood, consider a multi-tool hatchet and take one tool instead of two.
The booster pump included with this tankless reverse osmosis system requires electricity but helps to maximize the efficiency of the system. It can achieve up to a 1:1 ratio of purified to wastewater. However, in real-world use, some people found that wastewater was more like 2 gallons for every 1 gallon of purified water produced. iSprings points out that many factors affect this efficiency rating, so some variance in results is to be expected.